HLC Recommends SWC For 10-Year Accreditation

Aug 15th, 2006 | By | Category: 18-1: The Winding Road to Student Success, Tribal College News

Sisseton Wahpeton College (SWC, Sisseton, SD) was recommended for 10 years of accreditation by a review team of the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association. Ten years is the longest single period the HLC accredits any institution of post-secondary education.

The team’s recommendations will be reported to the Higher Learning Commission in Chicago, IL, where they will be evaluated and a final decision made.

College President Dr. William Harjo LoneFight, after the HLC team announcement, remarked, “This is an extraordinary day, all the work that the people—the faculty, staff and the Dakota Oyate—have put in has been recognized and rewarded.”

The HLC team was impressed by the college’s “astounding” progress from their last review in 1999. President LoneFight said. “Earning the 10-year recommendation (gains us) the respect of our peers and drives another nail in the coffin of those who question the value of tribal colleges in the higher education universe.”

Elaine Pontillo, chair of the HLC team, said, “You have demonstrated to us that you are not fearful of work, that you have moved forward, and that you will continue to do so.”

The HLC review team praised the exemplary effort of the tiospaye (family that makes up SWC.) The college follows Wodakotah philosophy by promoting a work environment that operates as a family unit. “The mission statement of the college is very strong and everyone believes in it,” NCA review team member Larry Lundblad said.

SWC involves everyone from the president to the janitors, faculty, and staff, as a family, in student retention.

The most impressive improvements were noted by Pontillo who said, “The physical environment to support learning is remarkable; and the advancement in classroom technology has been a huge upgrade.”

Karen Williams (Sisseton-Wahpeton), a lead teacher for SWC’s Tiny Tots Learning Center and student in 1982, knows the changes. “There was no student lounge, copy center, book store, log cabin, archives or day care,” Williams said. The college has also added transportation for students, a student senate, a drum group, qualified instructors, and a Dakota culture department.

HLC accreditation benefits include: credit transferability, increased opportunities for students, and validation of the faculty’s commitment to the highest standards of education.

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